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#4341 Ocelot

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Posted 06 October 2018 - 07:15 AM

I've played about eight hours of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and I'm really enjoying it so far. Continuing the RPG-ification of Assassin's Creed started with Origins, we've got XP, levels, and a big ol' world full of loot to find, MGSV-style enemy bases to clear out, and scary enemies of varying strengths. But where Origins was all the XP with none of the benefits, Odyssey branches out into a cheeky little bit of choice and consequence, and even has a really interesting optional... kinda sorta difficulty mode? Rather than your standard modern AAA video game thing of having you follow a waypoint at all times, Odyssey has a mode where quest markers are replaced with just listening to the quest giver tell you "I need you to go to this place, it's west of *insert landmark here*, south of *a certain town*", and then you just find it yourself. It's not quite as hands-off as Breath of the Wild was, and it'd be hard to really get lost, but it is a really nice change of pace.

 

So I'm playing as a muscular Greek lady named Kassandra, who has thick eyebrows, a husky voice and just a liiiittle bit of that good Greek 'ssh' on her 'ss' sounds, and I really like her as an RPG protagonist. Honestly a great video game face and a voice will take me a long way in a game like this, but Kassandra has a really enjoyable wry sense of humour to her, too, and she's just a big ol' bruiser. Her first scene has her getting clocked right in the jaw by a loan shark's cronies, which was a great intro; she reminds me a lot of our ol' pal Xena, to be honest. She also calls anyone she doesn't like "malakes", and I love that :P

 

I was impressed to see that the skill tree customisation is actually really in-depth this time around, too. It isn't seem like the standard Ubisoft skill tree where you're basically just buying all the abilities you should have had from the beginning and eventually you get them all; here you actually have to spec yourself down certain paths, and the active abilities themselves have to be mapped to hot-keys so you can only have four melee and four ranged ones total. So far I have one ability that lets me permanently destroy an enemy's shield, and one that is just the famous "THIS IS SPARTA" kick from 300 which is absolutely wonderful for knocking people off ledges. You still have the annoying thing where high-level enemies can't be killed in one shot from an Assassination stab, but now there's an ability that lets you hold the button for a more powerful stab, and if you can Sparta kick them off a ledge afterwards you can really turn the tables.

 

I found a good ol' Assassin's Creed cave full of ancient-past-sci-fi stuff, so that's still there, and all the naval battle stuff is back again so we've basically got a Greatest Hits of Assassin's Creed game here. I had a little look at the overall game map, and I had a moment of existential dread when I had to zoom out one step further than I thought I would to see the whole thing, only to find another zoom out after that. This place is absolutely gigantic, and every quest I've done so far has been pretty in-depth, too; no "fetch 10 things". I'm impressed, and pretty intimidated, too.



#4342 Ocelot

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Posted 14 October 2018 - 10:58 PM

OK, baby, time for an Assassin's Creed Odyssey update, after about 55 hours. I've finished the main story, and there are a few more juicy questlines I want to chase up on my way to the level cap. I might end up going for the Platinum Trophy if it doesn't turn out to be too much of a grind. I'm happy to say that this is my favourite Assassin's Creed game. If you'd asked me before this I would have told you either Brotherhood (for being, at the time, a fresh new kind of game design that would go on to be Ubisoft's only kind of game, and also having Ezio) or Black Flag (for just being a great pirate game), but Odyssey has a decade's worth of gameplay upgrades, quality of life improvements under its belt, a really enjoyable story that neatly avoids the usual AC problem of Forrest-Gump-ing your character into well-known historical moments at the expense of any kind of continuity, and, without a doubt, the best character in the entire series: Kassandra (and no, I'm not just saying that because her husky voice and big muscles make her Ocelot kryptonite :P).

 

The game gives you three main paths down which to spec your character: Hunter (bow and arrow stuff), Warrior (fighting guys) and Assassin (stealthy boi), and I went in hard on stealth and then shored myself up on fighting for when I'd inevitably get caught. This is one of those games where certain builds will break the game in disgustingly fun ways, so I ended up with this warping Assassination manoeuvre that I could chain to four guys, and a giant axe special attack that I could chain to another four, with a 50% heal I could pop at any moment and the wonderful Sparta Kick for whenever someone made the mistake of putting their back to a ledge. All the special abilities run off an Adrenaline Bar, so of course the game becomes a matter of spec'ing yourself to maximise Adrenaline build-up while minimising the amount you have to spend. There's an easy re-spec ability, too, which I know RPG purists might baulk at but I always appreciate it. What I would really have enjoyed is a Nier Automata style loadout system, where I could match certain armour sets with certain builds depending on what I'm trying to do, but I suppose we can't have everything.

 

I can't say the choice and consequence side of the game really holds up its end of the bargain, though. While there is one major moment where you make the choice in Chapter 1 and the consequence only follows up in Chapter 7, and it does have the Witcher 3 style of ending where it collates certain choices you've made over the entire game rather than just at the very end, most of the game is just very shallow, binary choices. None of your character upgrades apply to any kind of charisma or speech ability; it's all "Do you let this guy walk away or kill him?" and  "Will you splash some Drachmae to pay these guys off or kill them?", that kind of thing. Once you have to choose who's more deserving of medical care: the farmer who feeds the whole village, the rich woman who'll pay you, or the mother of two sick kids, but as far as I can tell there's just no followup to any of it. Comparing the ending to Witcher 3's is not quite deserved, either, because Odyssey really just has the one ending and your choices only determine who's alive to see it. I ended up getting two characters killed due to what felt more like a clerical error in the towering system of checks and balances that govern the outcomes than my actual behaviour in the game. Afterwards I looked up exactly what you need to do for the 'best' ending and I would have sworn I'd done all of it, but... apparently not. It's a shame because I don't feel the ending I got reflected the way I'd actually played the game; I feel like one particular dialogue choice is weighted too heavily and I just happened to pick it by accident or something.

 

There's a lot of hubbub about this game being Ubisoft's newest low in the race to empty gamers' pockets with predatory microtransactions, and that really wasn't my experience at all. It's an enormous game, and a very long one, but I never felt I had to grind just to make the required levels for main story missions. It does seem like you can't stick to only story quests, though. If you're picking up a side quest or two in every new area you'll stay within the recommended level range, but if, for example, you're a game reviewer or shouting Youtube influencer whose livelihood rests on shotgunning through the critical path as quickly as possible so you can produce content, you're probably going to run into level gating problems. I do think the game is probably too big for its own good, and I suppose it's fair enough that not everyone wants to play through side content, but at the same time I think the side content is actually pretty good and well worth seeing. There's probably a happy medium to be struck for future games. Personally I'd happily take a smaller game in terms of overall scope, but a denser game in terms of story branching and player choice. There are only so many times you can be asked to infiltrate a base to retrieve/kill an item/dude before you start longing for a way to talk yourself out of problems. Or maybe play a game of Gwent...

 

But, like I said, I really like this game, as evidenced by the near-sixty hours I've poured into it in just over a week. It's an extremely smooth, fun, easy game to wile away the hours in, with a slick control scheme and some positively delicious quality of life features. There's a rolling series of autosaves going back every minute for the last five minutes or so, allowing you to go back and redo any given conversation even if you forgot to quick save beforehand. Entering and exiting combat is as easy as locking-on or -off, none of the usual Assassin's Creed misery of trying to leave a fight and not being able to. When you loot a dead body, Kassandra has this kind of 'loot aura' that automatically loots every dead body in like a 10 foot radius, and you can even do it from horseback. And the greatest thing of all? You can't die from falls any more. For the game's opening hours you take fall damage but won't die, but once you hit Lv 20 Kassandra starts casually throwing out a graceful somersault and roll and laughs in the face of certain death. It's bewdiful:

 

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#4343 Ocelot

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Posted 16 October 2018 - 05:03 AM

OH DUDE I have to tell you guys one last thing about Assassin's Creed Odyssey because it's insane! But first one final update: I got the Platinum Trophy and I still think this game's great. I'd like to see Ubisoft work on a few things for the next AC game in this vein, but boy I had a nice 65 hours with this bad boy. If you don't want to read my massive spoiler here (and boy it's really big, because it's the culmination of the three major story quest lines that you spend this entire game working towards), then let me just leave you with my hearty recommendation and this picture of Kassandra when her hair textures didn't load in right one time and it somehow made her look even more Yas Queen SLAAAAY than usual:

 

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OK, here we go with MASSIVE, SUPER-ULTRA-TRUE-SECRET ENDING SPOILERS FOR ASSASSIN'S CREED ODYSSEY!

 

Spoiler



#4344 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 25 October 2018 - 08:26 AM

I've only played the first hour or so of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it so far!  It's my first deck-building dungeon crawler, and as much as I enjoyed Gwent, I was initially skeptical as to how they could integrate that formula into a full-length campaign while still keeping things interesting.

 

As it turns out, the use of specialized decks and challenges, like in shorter themed events in Gwent or, say, Hearthstone, really lends itself well to minigame events, or "Puzzles," as Thronebreaker calls them.  Instead of relying on my pre-prepared deck, I had to come up with creative strategies to use different combinations of my cards to protect the Queen from an incoming rockslide, or quell an angry mob in a single AOE attack.  Of course, your deck is still an integral part of the game, as it's your army, the troops you upgrade and bring along with you into larger battles.  Managing those cards, along with the resources to upgrade them or buy new cards, looks like it will be a critical aspect of moving forward in the story.  Every choice you make may not have a huge impact on the story, but it will certainly impact your army and resources.  The first example is a log in the road, blocking your path.  You can spend gold to pay nearby woodcutters to clear it, gaining more wood in the process; or you can put your troops to work, saving gold but losing recruits, presumably as your troops grow fatigued from the extra work.

 

Gwent veterans/purists may object to the drastic reduction in the number of rows and the overhaul to the cards and leaders, but overall I'm having fun relearning a system I wasn't too entrenched in to begin with.  Speaking of which, Gwent is finally out of open beta, and the cosmetic changes in Thronebreaker are emulated, but not reflected in the new version.  You can even switch between the games from each others' menu, like going from single to multiplayer mode.  Oh, and achievements in Thronebreaker translate into rewards in Gwent, plus they give you goodies like avatars, titles, and premium card kegs as a bit of lagniappe, which I appreciated.

 

Graphically, the game, the menus, the cards, and even the maps are spectacular.  The art style isn't too cartoony for the Witcher universe, and the fully-voiced 2D characters have a surprising amount of movement and expression to them.  From a lore standpoint, Thronebreaker appears to be set around the time of book 3, Baptism of Fire, and since the first game is set 5 years after the last book, there shouldn't be any spoilers for neophytes to the Witcher saga, like me.  There'll probably be loads of easter eggs I'll miss, but I'll just have to accept it. 

 

Constructive criticism?  Moving Queen Meve across the map is a bit slow, but apparently I can upgrade that in my camp menu, so it's intentional.  There also seems to be some inconsistency between when I have to hold my mouse on a button or just click it, like the pass/end turn button, but that might just be me, not the game.  Both Thronebreaker and the new Gwent rely on a lot more mouse holding, presumably to help prevent accidental clicks on critical things like rewards, which is irritating but also appreciated.  I'll just have to get used to it, I suppose.  Haven't encountered any infuriating glitches or glaring errors as of yet, though I wish the teams animating the cards, game, and cutscenes would just PICK A SIDE for where Queen Meve hangs her scabbard.  I was streaming my first impressions (and my first, halting attempt at streaming) for a buddy, and that little nitpick drove us both nuts.

 

All in all, I have a very favorable first impression of Thronebreaker from the little bit of time I spent playing, and the rest of the time I spent derping looking around.  Queen Meve is a fascinating character, already surrounded by intriguing and amusing supporting NPCs, even without a fully-assembled party.  The game is fun and keeps me on my toes, and the story just keeps drawing me in.  I will certainly keep you informed if that changes, or if I find new reasons to sing the game's praises.


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#4345 Ocelot

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Posted 26 October 2018 - 07:46 AM

It's October 26th, so you know what that means: after years of waiting, I am finally playing Rrrrrreeeee- Mass Effect Andromeda. Yeah, Origin is currently giving away a free 7-day trial of Origin Access on PC, and Andromeda is in the Vault, so I'm giving it a go. And I don't like it.

 

I'm determined to give this game the benefit of the doubt and approach it like I live in another timeline where it wasn't a huge public disaster. A hundred years ago I used to be a die hard Mass Effect fan, and there's nothing in the world I'd love more than a good new entry in the series, so I'm trying here. The game I'm playing today has had all the patches and post-launch attention it's ever going to get, so character faces only look awful rather than hilarious, and the game's only hard-crashed on me three times in the first ten-ish hours; not exactly great, but nothing to bear a grudge over. But, uuuuugh, it's just so... bad. It's boring. I'm in a new galaxy in a cool spaceship full of gross aliens who want to bone me and I just don't feel any of the Mass Effect magic at all. I just see a Galaxy Map full of busywork tasks to tick off a giant checklist and percentage bars that need filling up.

 

Worse, I've just reached Havarl, which means I'm hot off the worst 'first contact' scene ever written in all science fiction. We arrive at the planet Aya after having just flown through a dumb cloud of evil space smoke, and are escorted to a settlement by some local ships like in Empire Strikes Back. We land, and I walk down the gangway to humanity's first meeting with an entirely new race of alien creatures... who immediately speak to me in perfect English. This is not acknowledged or explained in any way. With all the pomp and circumstance of a low-key job interview I'm escorted down a couple of corridors by some seemingly low-level authority figure, and then immediately palmed off onto a fellow whose obvious higher-fidelity character model betrays the fact that he will be my next squad mate, who then leads me to another guy who almost instantaneously launches into generic RPG quest-giver speech patterns. "Oh, we can help you accomplish your goal, but first you complete a series of tasks for us". Then, on the way back out, I talk to the first NPC in the area with a talk prompt and am greeted as 'Pathfinder' and spoken to like I'm any old schmuck on the street.

 

THIS IS HUMANITY'S FIRST MEETING WITH A NEW ALIEN RACE! Can you even imagine what that would look like if aliens came to Earth one day? The mind-boggling level of hand-wringing on a global scale as the entire might of our planet's media, scientific powers, military forces and internet meme creators laser-focus onto the most remarkable event in human history? How would we speak to them, how could we exist alongside them, how could we learn to know a fundamentally different form of life? Where would the representative of this new race be taken? What sights would they see? Where would the ship land? The very idea that beings from an entirely different galaxy could walk on a planet of our gravity level, and comfortably breath the mix of chemicals we call air is a cosmic coincidence that would incite generations worth of debate.

 

Mass Effect Andromeda doesn't concern itself with any of these questions. It doesn't do anything. You just land on a planet and an NPC leads you to a quest giver; another day in the life of Video Game Character on a quest to fill percentage bars. This game's only gameplay style is shooting, and you can't shoot your way through a language barrier, so oh well the aliens just speak English straight away and you'll get a throwaway line about 'translators' to half-heartedly explain it. Where are you going to land? In the docking bay, of course; as we all know, an entire alien planet only has one settlement with no houses where all four dozen inhabitants stand around all day and night saying single phrases. Shouldn't you be taken to meet the President in the planet's highest-security fortress or something? Eh, no, this random guy in this random room over here will be fine. Are you going to... I don't know, ask them about their culture? Their history? Leave some humans behind as ambassadors? Do literally anything? No, you're just going to leave immediately on the next step of your main quest, because there are guys out there to shoot and percentages to raise.

 

Just... what an absolute waste. What an absolute waste of the Mass Effect name, of Andromeda's premise and its promise of a fresh start. I was disappointed that my main job in the early hours of the game was not finding a new planet but simply fixing a settlement on a planet that had already been found and half-colonised, but this? I hate it. I'm going to keep playing for now, because I at least want to see some of the squad mates' Loyalty Missions, but I'm not happy with any of this.

 

Some more assorted thoughts:

 

- Tone-wise, the writing team seems to have aimed for 'the snarky character in the sitcom' at pretty much all times, for almost all characters. Eventually you start hearing their individual voices, but only underneath all the sarcasm and "Isn't this situation we're in right now so craaaazy?" self-referential stuff. Dialogue choices seem to be mainly "Yes" or "Yes, but obnoxiously", except for the obvious romance speech options that are now straight up marked as such with a giant heart symbol so you couldn't possibly miss them. Honestly there's about as much thrill to it as just picking your choice of alien sex cutscene from a menu.

 

- Every alien non-squad-mate character within a certain species has the same face. Every single one! Every male Turian in this game has the same face in different colours. Every Asari, every Salarian, same face. I recognised my ship's Asari doctor as having Natalie Dormer's voice, and I thought her face looked pretty good, but then I realised that every other Asari in the game looked identical. I was chasing up a Turian accused of murder on the Nexus, so I went to see the his jailer, who showed me to the guy's cell, and they were both the same person. There's this scene with the fellow I now know to be the Kett Archon, where he tries to open a Remnant door while his four bodyguard soldiers shuffle around in the background 100% IDENTICAL TO EACHOTHER. What are we even doing here? What is this? Isn't this Mass Effect?

 

- There's been no attempt to write natural-sounding conversations; everyone wants to spill their deepest, darkest secrets to you immediately because you're the player character. I spoke to my Scottish navigator Suvi, who immediately told me her life story and mentioned that she believed in a higher power. My two response options? "I do too" and "ACK-CHOO-ALLY, there's no proof of God". Terrible.

 

- The storytelling has just been shockingly poor so far. Your introduction to Andromeda, with this rubbish mission on some lame planet where Clancy Brown is briefly your father and then dies pointlessly before apparently declaring you the Pathfinder off-screen, is so truncated and... just bad, to be honest, that I don't feel like I have a good grasp of anything here. People just start talking about 'Remnant', like I'm supposed to know exactly what it is. Oh, sure. Remnant. You want to, maybe, introduce them? Set up some kind of story about them? No? I should just platform across their floating columns and shoot their robots for the rest of the game? Oh. Good. Just what I like.

 

- I like the zoom-y boom-y jumpjet stuff in combat, but I'm already getting a little sick of the same dance of putting crosshairs on faces and pulling the trigger until the health bar empties. These enemies are not very interesting to fight, and my character is fragile and my weapons weak enough that I can't really risk blasting around out of cover at the moment. Apparently you don't get to control your squad mates' powers any more, so that's another option off the table. Also I wish developers wouldn't do automatic cover systems. They're always this ineffective half-step between a full-on sticky cover system where you press a button to slam into a wall, and the traditional 'just stand behind things' tactic of older games.

 

- The Tempest is a beautiful spaceship, and the CG cutscenes you see every now and then are gorgeous. Those moments are the closest this game has come to igniting that Mass Effect flame inside me.

 

- I hate that the game doesn't let you manually save during a Priority Mission. Why? It's so weird, and because I'm playing this on PC rather than my beautiful console with my beautiful Suspend/Resume feature, every time I have to step away from the game I just have to hope I don't lose too much progress when I come back. Why would you do this Bioware?



#4346 Ocelot

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Posted 28 October 2018 - 05:10 AM

OK, part 2 of Ocelot's journey through Mass Effect Andromeda, wherein he occasionally finds brief pockets of enjoyable Mass-Effect-iness amongst the bland, 'this-is-what-all-AAA-video-games-are-like-in-the-current-era' open-world checklist-ticking design, but then makes the mistake of pursuing the various Loyalty Missions and is jerked around from planet to planet for so many menial tasks that he completely sours on it all again.

 

This game is a mess of logistical roadblocks, congested menus, inefficient UIs and all kinds of other quality-of-life ruiners, the kind of thing you expect from one of Ubisoft's behemoths that 12 different studios across the world worked on without ever consulting eachother. The planet Aya has a wonderful Fast Travel system to save you the trouble of schlepping around the whole place on foot, but the much larger areas of Nexus and Kadara don't. When you're out on a big planet that you need the Nomad to get around, you can warp straight back to the Tempest from the Nomad, but not from outside the Nomad. You can skip the long animation for flying between two planets, but you can't skip the one for traveling between systems or the ones for landing on or leaving a planet. You can only check your e-mail from your spaceship, and you aren't allowed to just walk around your spaceship while it's docked on a planet. YOU HAVE TO GO INTO SPACE TO CHECK YOUR E-MAILS. This is such a baffling design decision that I find it almost impossible to believe. Mass Effect Andromeda posits a world in which the main character has an AI inside her brain powerful enough to effortlessly interface with ancient, terraforming-level technology from another alien species, but checking e-mails can only be done at a desktop PC. After flying to space.

 

To be fair, Bioware has always conveniently ignored modern-day smartphone technology for narrative convenience in Mass Effect (see also: a Reaper attacked the Citadel in ME1 and nobody took a picture, nobody just looks up "What do Quarians look like under their helmets" on Google, etc), and I could let something like this slide if it wasn't such an obvious problem in this game. I can't tell you how many quests in this damn game have sent me pingponging between STAR SYSTEMS just so some random loser can drop three lines of dialogue on me and update the waypoint I blindly follow to point to the next step of the quest. For the love of God, CALL ME ON THE SPACE PHONE! I have one! It's right there on the ship! Send a text to my Omni-tool! Ryder's laughably-animated jazz-hands gestures at its holographic interface can make that thing do everything from hacking doors to seeing through walls to turning into a STRAIGHT UP ACTUAL SWORD; I refuse to believe it doesn't come with a cell plan. This is a science fiction universe in which people stranded a billion light years from civilization are burning through tons of precious space fuel to zigzag across an entire galaxy doing favours for their friends because they refuse to use technology that exists TODAY IN THE REAL WORLD. I'm so angry you guys oh my God.

 

I swear to God I have visited every single planet twice for Peebee and her Loyalty Mission still hasn't officially started. And what makes it worse is that I've finished the other five Loyalty Missions and they weren't even good. I liked Vetra's, mainly because I like Vetra, but none of these other schmucks have anything interesting going on in their lives and I resent all the time I've spent trying to get to know them. It's not that they're bad characters; there's no standout Garrus or Tali amongst them, but if we're being real there was no Garrus or Tali in the first Mass Effect either, just characters who would become our Garrus and Tali over the course of the series. I think Vetra has some real potential, and Drack and Peebee could go places. But Jaal is a boring man from a boring race, Cora is just your standard neutral human Bioware companion, and Liam is... it's like they've actually tried really hard to make me personally dislike him. Liam is the personification of this game's "What if Mass Effect... but memes?" tone. Everything Liam says sounds like Reddit wrote it. His Loyalty Mission is this insufferable meta examination of Mass Effect itself which hovers on the brink of breaking the fourth wall the whole time. I can't stand him.

 

This game reminds me of those unwatchable cartoons where you can tell the suits in marketing said "Nobody wants to see Batman any more; kids want to see characters their own age fighting crimes". The Mass Effect trilogy put you in the shoes of a confident, capable, sexually-irresistible soldier and let you live out all your best space fantasies. Mass Effect Andromeda feels like you're in the shoes of someone from the Bioware Social Forum who only knows how to respond to the real world through gifs and memes. "Now there's something you don't see everyday", you quip sardonically, as you uncover an ancient, unknowable world machine built by a super-advanced alien race from the other end of the universe that make the Protheans look like cro-magnons bonking things with stones. "Let's not die", your squad mate quips back, her Turian face somehow contorted into the tongue-out emoji. "We got this", you reply, using that exact, meaningless line for like the tenth damn time in this video game Jesus who wrote this? I can't stress enough how much the Imgur comments section tone undercuts any kind of gravitas or solemnity this game might have otherwise had, and it's seriously there every time you get to pick dialogue options. 99% of the 'options' here are just to make the conversation move forward in two different tones, but one of those tones is always "meme" and I really dislike it.

 

Also, I know I mentioned this before, but I CANNOT BELIEVE THE ALIENS ALL HAVE THE SAME FACES. I can't believe it! Every Asari but Peebee is the exact same person! This game came out in TWENTY SEVENTEEN and when you come back to the Nexus after rescuing the Asari Ark you see forty of the same face come walking in the door. I can't deal with it. How did this game happen like this? What is this game? Am I in crazy town? Is this the real life? No, wait, I'd better stop or I'll start sounding like Liam.



#4347 Ocelot

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 07:19 AM

"Ryder's decisions will have far-reaching consequences", Mass Effect Andromeda lies to me in a loading screen tooltip, during an initial load that, on my PC seems to take anywhere between 20 seconds and like ten solid minutes depending on whether the game is of a mind to go through a lengthy "BUILDING SHADERS" process or not. I have now finished the game, uninstalled it with the quickness, and I feel I am now qualified to speak on this game's version of that noblest of RPG traditions: choice and consequence. The verdict? There are no consequences to anything, but to be perfectly fair, it's hard to have consequences when you have almost no choices to begin with.

 

Gone are the meaningful dialogue choices from your grampappy's Mass Effect, almost entirely replaced here with points at which an entirely fixed conversation will stop and ask you whether you want to say the next insignificant line normally or irritatingly. None of this plays into any kind of morality system, or has any other kind of effect beyond the immediate, so say your memes to your heart's content because none of it means anything. The achingly difficult moral grey areas that Loyalty Missions of old would force you to choose between are gone, replaced with... nothing at all. Andromeda's Loyalty Missions actually have the squad mate in question making the decisions, while you just stand there watching the game play itself, thinking fondly of times past when Mass Effect was an RPG. There are a few missions where you get to choose who will be the Pathfinder representative of another race, but, as I believe we have discussed, all the aliens in this game have the exact same model so what does it even matter if you end up with one over another?

 

Most other 'consequences' throughout the game manifest as "X character may or may not be friendly enough/alive to make a brief cameo in the final mission", which is an affair so stuffed with radio chatter that's mixed too quietly to hear over the roar of you blasting away at your ten millionth identical Kett soldiers that you'd barely even know it anyway. The worst one of all is a main mission to save this Angaran Priestess from a Kett POW experimentation facility, where the choice ends up being "Evacuate all the Angaran prisoners" or "Blow up the entire facility with the prisoners still inside", and, inexplicably, the Priestess is pro blowing up the facility. Even when Jaal tries to tell her we can just come back later and blow it up once everyone is safe, she gets super pouty that you won't callously slaughter a few thousand of her own people and warns that you'd better be ready for her to turn her back on you in your hour of need some day. And then nothing ever comes of it anyway.

 

None of your squad can die. They're all added to your party automatically so you can't miss them. They won't argue with eachother. They'll all idolise you no matter what you say or do. You can't actually say anything to anyone that might upset them anyway; you're literally just choosing the tone in which to express the specific sentiment Bioware has laid out for you at any given juncture. It's like the sexless, bland cast of some middling sitcom, where each one has their own single characteristic that is mined for jokes (*canned laughter every time Drack mentions how old he is*), and there's no issue so serious that it can't be solved before the credits roll. Remember when Mass Effect 1 had you get to know Saren before he turned on you, and you could talk him out of a phase of the final bossfight? Remember the conversation with Sovereign on Virmire where you got a glimpse at the real menace and never once said a meme at him? Back when Mass Effect was an RPG? Here Ryder mainly talks to the Archon in non-interactive cutscenes, and he has all the pathos and nuance of a bad Power Rangers villain, complete with the dumb outfit. He has this loop of bone on his skull that looks so much like a basketball hoop that I spent every moment he was on screen imagining dunking on him and then hanging off his head rim. Weirdly enough his gross, four-nostrilled alien mug actually has the best facial animation in the game, but it's wasted on a villain about as memorable as that guy from the Justice League movie.

 

I don't know if I've made it clear yet, but I really didn't like this game. There's still so much I want to talk about, like how you start seeing Angaran mercenaries mixed in with the bad guys you fight all over the galaxy, seemingly days after your supposed first contact moment. The removal of manually-controllable squad mate powers is such a huge step back and basically turns squad mate selection into deciding who you want to hear talk to eachother on long Nomad rides. They don't even get alternate outfits when you do their Loyalty Missions any more; they might as well not even be there in combat. And I can't stand how the game keeps brushing off questions about the Remnant, or how exactly SAM works inside Ryder's body, with glib "It's complicated" handwaves, when this is Mass Effect. Don't tell me it's complicated; explain it to me. Fascinating lore is what this whole series was built on!. Here even the Codex is mostly just descriptions of enemies and the various mechanics you use as you grind your percentage bars up.

 

The worst thing is I still feel like there's great potential in the premise of a non-military team of scientists, researchers and wilderness experts building a home in a new galaxy. A game about finding new planets that nobody has set foot on before, and using your ingenuity to turn those planets into worlds. Dealing with peculiar races of aliens who don't speak your language and won't just perfectly fit in with your customs. Establishing colonies and making hard choices for the greater good, where every decision has drastic ramifications and nobody is ever happy, and the entire situation is a political minefield (like, y'know, an RPG). Imagine a game where the aim is to hold life precious at all costs, because that is what colonising a galaxy is about. Imagine a game, then, that is THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA, which is a game about going to a galaxy where everything has already been discovered and then killing everyone in it.

 

EDIT - No, wait, I forgot the worst thing: I romanced Vetra and we didn't even have gross interspecies sex! I didn't see so much as a chitinous Turian buttcheek. She made me fly all the way to Kadara and we just kissed lamely, and that was that. Bioware, I was sold a bill of goods here.

 

EDIT - No, wait, one last thing: imagine seeing the reaction to Mass Effect 3's space magic ending and then deciding to go waaaaay further down the space magic hole with your followup. Andromeda is barely even a sci-fi game any more. Every planet you land on just so happens to have an ancient alien terraforming machine that instantly undoes thousands of years of climate change just by mooshing your palm against a couple of triangular keyboards so your impossibly advanced AI can interface with it (how does that work again? Oh, right, it's complicated). But then later in the game you lose your AI, and in a dramatic scene Ryder finds she can still work all the keypads, literally just with her chosen one protagonist magic powers now. Oh, but she gets a nosebleed like in every other work of fiction when people use their psychic powers too much. Thanks I hate it.

 

EDIT - OK, I promise this is the last one. Spoilers for the ending of this bad game that is never going to get a sequel:

 

Spoiler

 

EDIT - Did I mention the aliens all have the same face?



#4348 Ocelot

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Posted 31 October 2018 - 03:25 AM

I used the remaining time on my Origin Access subscription to dip a toe into a few more games:

 

Inside: From the makers of Limbo, this is another gorgeous 2D trial-and-error puzzle with grand artistic ambitions, but unlike Limbo I actually quite liked this one. It's an entirely wordless story, not even so much as a written subtitle or even a button prompt icon; it communicates all of its game mechanics to you through Nintendo-style learn-on-the-job game design (and really well, too), and its story is... well, what you make of it, I suppose. Ostensibly you're a boy trying to get inside a peculiar, yet distinctly malevolent, facility, and once you get inside... boy it gets memorable. Let's leave it at that. It's about three to four hours long, looks great, plays really well, has some great puzzle design and a story that, while I couldn't really explain, I still really enjoyed seeing through.

 

Virginia: Another artsy fartsy walking simulator, this time played from first-person with some of the worst controls I've ever come across in my life. When you go into the settings menu a message pops up telling you the game was intended to be played at 30FPS, and no matter how I configured the game I couldn't get rid of this awful acceleration on the right analogue stick that had me constantly overshooting whenever I tried to look at something. So it's a chore to play, but as an interactive story I actually quite enjoyed it. It's only about an hour long, with you playing as a female FBI agent investigating the disappearance of a young boy in, you guessed it, Virginia, only that premise is just a jumping-off point for something you definitely won't see coming. It's an interesting exploration of character, I think, casting you as a character who is not who you think she is and playing with your expectations in ways I quite liked. It's another no-dialogue-er, with most of the game scored by wonderful music that the opening credits mention as being performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. I liked it. Virginia and Inside acted as really nice palate-cleansers coming off Mass Effect Andromeda: two really thoughtfully-designed video games that explore new ways to use the medium itself, and don't stick around any longer than they need to.

 

Furi: This one's pure action, a top-down game of nothing but multi-stage boss battles of ever-increasing speed and intensity. I only played it for an hour or so, enough to beat the first two bosses, and I'm going to go back for more. There's a story going on that I don't really care about, and some irritating slow-walking sections in between each boss that you can't skip (but can at least press a button to auto-walk through), but the meat of the game is in that hawt, 60FPS bossfightin', i-framing through attacks with your warp dodge, carefully steering through the occasional bullet-hell projectile pattern, and making sure you take every opportunity to punish the boss in the brief windows between their attacks. It's good, boyeeee.

 

Aragami: I probably didn't give this one a fair shot, to be honest, but it just seemed like a miserable time. You play as a magic Ninja spirit guy who becomes invisible in shadow and can warp between areas of darkness, but is otherwise extremely fragile, and you crouch-walk around doing Batman-style one-button stealth takedowns. The character isn't much fun to control, and your shadow teleporting ability just kind of feels like a clunkier version of the Blink from Dishonored, so I ended up saying goodbye after about half an hour. I don't know, maybe it's fine, but I'm just not in the mood for something like that right now.

 

OK now my week's Origin Access is up and I'm finally going to start Red Dead Redemption 2. I just want to say that I strongly regret all the time I spent playing Mass Effect Andromeda.

 

EDIT - Oh, and 3DS-wise I've been playing...

 

探偵神宮寺三郎:復讐の輪廻, which I believe would be called something like Detective Jake Hunter: Cycle of Revenge if it were ever released in English. It's a Japan-only detective game for the 3DS, featuring one Jake Hunter as the protagonist, who is apparently star of a really long-running video game series that stretches all the way back to the NES in 1987, but I'd never even heard of until now. He's a taciturn fellow with very tall hair, and for me playing this game has been a wonderful introduction to the way hardboiled noir is written in Japanese.

 

As for the game itself, though, I really wasn't a fan. The plot is a very mundane affair about a rogue Yakuza lieutenant going after the patent to a new material for use in paper and textiles manufacturing, and gameplay design is a trial and error process of guessing where you're supposed to go next to make the story move forward. There are these irritating minigames where you'll have to escape from pursuers by choosing one of three options, like hiding in the shadows or walking ahead nonchalantly, and only one of the three options is the 'correct' one. It's nothing terrible, but just pretty mediocre overall.

 

I've moved on to the next game in the series, named Detective Jake Hunter: Ghost of the Dusk (this one was actually localised), and it's been a lot better so far. The game mechanics have been punched up, the ugly 3DS 3D graphics replaced with nice 2D art, and the story is immediately more engaging. We've got a cheeky little haunted house this time around, which I'm sure won't actually be ghosts but boy it beats the hell out of a squabble over patents.



#4349 Saber-Scorpion

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Posted 02 November 2018 - 06:16 AM

Ocelot, reading you completely trash a crappy game that I also played never gets old. :lol: I can relate so much with all of it. I especially liked this paragraph:

 

None of your squad can die. They're all added to your party automatically so you can't miss them. They won't argue with eachother. They'll all idolise you no matter what you say or do. You can't actually say anything to anyone that might upset them anyway; you're literally just choosing the tone in which to express the specific sentiment Bioware has laid out for you at any given juncture. It's like the sexless, bland cast of some middling sitcom, where each one has their own single characteristic that is mined for jokes (*canned laughter every time Drack mentions how old he is*), and there's no issue so serious that it can't be solved before the credits roll. Remember when Mass Effect 1 had you get to know Saren before he turned on you, and you could talk him out of a phase of the final bossfight? Remember the conversation with Sovereign on Virmire where you got a glimpse at the real menace and never once said a meme at him? Back when Mass Effect was an RPG? Here Ryder mainly talks to the Archon in non-interactive cutscenes, and he has all the pathos and nuance of a bad Power Rangers villain, complete with the dumb outfit. He has this loop of bone on his skull that looks so much like a basketball hoop that I spent every moment he was on screen imagining dunking on him and then hanging off his head rim. Weirdly enough his gross, four-nostrilled alien mug actually has the best facial animation in the game, but it's wasted on a villain about as memorable as that guy from the Justice League movie.

 

I have nothing to add - I'm just quoting it to read it again. :P

 

It really is almost impressive how singularly bland they managed to make Mass Effect Andromeda. It pitches itself as "play as a bold explorer instead of a soldier, who risks everything to venture into the great unknown - an entirely new galaxy across the gulf of space!" ... but then it's literally just the same Mass Effect stuff all over again. We don't venture to completely uncharted regions like Star Trek or something; we're just fighting another epic war against another ancient evil in another galaxy populated by surprisingly humanoid aliens with technology stunningly compatible with our own - and with humans and other ME races already scattered around everywhere, like they've been living here all along. It feels like the devs were under strict instructions to simply make a poor man's reboot of the Mass Effect universe rather than try to do anything new or exciting. Unless you count "make everyone a meme-spouting young person so we can't take anything very seriously" as new and exciting.
 
Anyway, I've been playing a few different games, including AC: Odyssey. It's fun so far, avoiding most of the things I disliked about other AC games, and boy, ancient Greece is beautiful. The naval stuff is awesome - I can see why everyone liked Black Flag. Makes me want to go back and play that one, and try Origins too. Maybe...

 

But I wanted to complain a bit about World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. It's pretty disappointing in comparison to the previous expansion pack, Legion. Legion was PACKED with content. The Broken Isles were huge, with a wide variety of landscapes, and there was so much to do! Each class had a unique storyline of their own, with 3 different artifact weapons to pursue and unlock skins for, plus lots of unique armor sets, there were quests for every profession, lots of secrets and Easter eggs, and a bunch of the content had you venturing back to the lands of old expansions. Plus, demon hunters are awesome and the story was one we had been waiting for forever - the final defeat of the Burning Legion. Heck, I'd go as far as to say Legion might be my favorite of all the WoW expansions, despite my nostalgia for Wrath of the Lich King.

 

By comparison, BfA feels so small it almost seems like a major content patch that they expanded into a "game" to make some extra bucks. The Argus patch for Legion was at least half as big. Sure, the two islands BfA gives us are pretty huge, and there's a decent amount of variety to be found (much more on Horde than Alliance), and the story is fairly interesting so far (more on Alliance than Horde), but the class stories are gone (just faction stories instead), the artifact weapons are gone (this time we all get... a necklace), there are fewer profession quests and secret content, and they even gave up on having unique armor for each class - for the first time EVER, this tier only has separate sets for each armor type (plate, mail, leather, and cloth). And it feels Blizzard redirected some of the budget, since pretty much every quest in Legion was almost fully voiced, while the War Campaigns of BfA - a BIG part of their content - are eerily silent and feel unfinished. The Warfronts are a fun new feature, but they would be a lot more fun if they had a real PVP mode instead of being the same group scenario over and over again, especially in an expansion that emphasizes the war between factions yet only added a single new PVP battleground.

 

Here's hoping the upcoming major content patches really expand things. The first one's supposed to be coming soon, but it sure feels like it's taking a while...


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#4350 Ocelot

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Posted 02 November 2018 - 05:37 PM

Anyway, I've been playing a few different games, including AC: Odyssey. It's fun so far, avoiding most of the things I disliked about other AC games, and boy, ancient Greece is beautiful. The naval stuff is awesome - I can see why everyone liked Black Flag. Makes me want to go back and play that one, and try Origins too. Maybe...

 

The naval stuff is even better in Black Flag, I think. The 2,000 years of technological advancement since Odyssey means that blasting enemy ships with cannons and grapeshot feels a whole lot more satisfying than just arrows and javelins, and you can do the classic pirate move of swinging over to the other ship from your rigging when you want to board them. Then there are these boss battle ships roaming the seas, with I had a fun time taking down. Black Flag is definitely a top three AC game for me, and I've played... boy, too many of them :P

 

Origins is mainly worth checking out for the time period and setting, I think. The closing years of Egypt as a major power in the world, with both Greece and Rome trying to horn in, so you're in this world that's ancient to us, but your player character remarks about the Pyramids being ancient even to him, and you can travel all over North Africa seeing the way the architecture and culture changes from the Egyptian to the Greek to the Roman cities. I found the story pretty forgettable, like most AC games until Odyssey (the most distinct memory I have is throwing spears at a rampaging war elephant from the back of a chariot driven by Julius Caesar, because how are you going to forget that?), but I still enjoyed it overall. I hear they added in some kind of historical tour mode after launch that basically turns off the story and combat and lets you just wander around on a guided tour of the various landmarks of Egypt with a nice voiced description when you get near. I always wanted to go back and try it out.

 

Anyway, I've dipped a toe into Red Dead Redemption 2, and after maybe ten hours or so I'm beginning to think I just don't like this game. It starts off with a solid two hours of borderline walking simulator stuff where you just follow tooltips and do exactly what the game tells you to. I don't think I've ever seen tooltips quite so overbearing in any other game; RDR has these nested tooltips like those Russian dolls, where obeying the first tooltip leads to the next one and the next one just to make sure you're doing exactly what the designers want you to and nothing else. I had moments where I was pushing the analogue stick almost all the way to the side and my cowboy would just keep walking straight.

 

And now that I've got to the more open part of the game in Chapter 2, story missions are still just as locked down. This is what I hated about GTA IV taken to an even more extreme degree: everything is so tightly scripted and pre-planned that it feels like my presence as the player is just a nuisance, and Rockstar would rather just show me a pre-recorded video of the mission being played 'properly'. Go here. Do this. Now go here. Now do this. Stand in this exact spot. No, here. No, you can't run here. No, you can't use your gun yet. No, it's not time to have fun yet, first you must stand here and open your menu and select this item. Rockstar literally turns some of your buttons off and limits your movement speed so you can do only the things they want you to do at any given moment.

 

To their credit, they've made the tiniest update to their signature molasses controls and clunky button layout in the form of an option to set running speed to a toggle instead of a hold, so you no longer have to choose between using the camera with the right analogue stick or moving above walking speed with the X button. Thank heavens for small mercies. This doesn't apply when you're on your horse, of course, so you still have to juggle seeing and moving there. There are like forty different healing items that you pick from cyclical menus within a radial menu, each raising a different permutation of Health/Stamina/Bullet Time, turning what should be a simple "make my health go up please" into a minute of um-ing and ah-ing. You can only walk slowly or run, meaning you're always going too fast or too slow to navigate whatever space you're in. Hunting animals is ludicrously complicated and excruciatingly realistic, to the point where a bad shot will ruin a pelt and each large animal carcass must be lugged back to your camp one-by-one every time. You have to fret over hunger meters like a survival game. Your horse doesn't teleport to you when you whistle like a proper video game horse, and good luck trying to jump on him while moving. You select your weapon loadout from your horse's saddlebags, and sometimes they'll stay on you the next time you get off but sometimes they'll just be gone and you'll have to set them all again. When you load a save you won't be where you were when you saved, you'll be off somewhere nearby and have to check your map to find out where you are again. Guns have a little timer on the reticle until you can actually take an accurate shot just like Alpha Protocol. Free-aiming controls are still so bad I had to turn lock-on back on. In 2018.

 

I think I'm just done giving Rockstar games a pass for this kind of stuff. RDR2 is an incredible looking game with a level of attention to detail you'll never see from any other developer, but it plays badly and some of it is just an absolute chore. The writing is good, but not so life-changingly amazing that I want to sit through ten minutes of horse-riding conversation at the start of every mission. Coming off Spider-Man, which handled like a dream, and AC Odyssey, which had such wonderful quality-of-life features, this game feels like a dinosaur from another era. I think I'm just going to stick to the main story missions and see how I go.

 

EDIT - After a few more hours I'm adjusting to the game's glacial pace and enjoying myself a lot more. I spent today just exploring enough to fill out the map a little more, and I had some wonderful encounters out in the frontier. A great big fat farmer and his wife invited me in for dinner, and I knew something was up with them but I decided to play along because I knew it'd be fun. When I was snooping around in the farmhouse I found my way into the toilet and the man said "Guess you got a brown dog scratchin' at the back door, partner", which was great. In many ways this game feels like the anti-Breath-of-the-Wild, in that every single thing here has been handcrafted and heavily scripted to give you exactly the experience the designers want you to have, but Rockstar has so much money and they can design some of these things so well that I still want to see it all.



#4351 Saber-Scorpion

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 08:48 AM

 

The naval stuff is even better in Black Flag, I think. The 2,000 years of technological advancement since Odyssey means that blasting enemy ships with cannons and grapeshot feels a whole lot more satisfying than just arrows and javelins, and you can do the classic pirate move of swinging over to the other ship from your rigging when you want to board them. Then there are these boss battle ships roaming the seas, with I had a fun time taking down. Black Flag is definitely a top three AC game for me, and I've played... boy, too many of them :P

 

But can you freaking RAM INTO an enemy ship and BREAK IT IN HALF? Because that feels pretty awesome too. :P


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#4352 Ocelot

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 05:23 PM

But can you freaking RAM INTO an enemy ship and BREAK IT IN HALF? Because that feels pretty awesome too. :P

 

That's preeeeetty gooood. Unfortunately I think breaking ships in half only started in Odyssey, but you can still ram them in Black Flag. I also love the way your crew stomp their feet and slam their shields in rhythm when you're boarding an enemy ship in Odyssey; it gets me super hyped to go and kick some dudes into the ocean. BOOM BOOM BOOM HAH!

 

One great thing about Black Flag is that your crew sing actual sea shanties instead of the chanting they do in Odyssey, and some of them were real bangers. I still get this one stuck in my head every now and then:

 

 

EDIT - OK, I'm coming around on Red Dead Redemption 2. Once you accept that you're going to have to play at the game's pace, not your own, and you spend about ten hours coming to grips with all the different menus and submenus and context-sensitive actions, the meat of this game is absolutely magnificent. Every little moment of the game just explodes with money. Cold, hard, Rockstar Games cash. No expense was spared to bring you exactly the experiences Rockstar wanted you to have. And if you're OK with that and you can accept that everything is going to be happening on Rockstar's terms, there's a wonderful game to dig into here.

 

I walked into a small house in the wilderness and there was an old woman sitting with her knitting in her rocking chair, apparently waiting for me. "Ah bin waitin' near two days for you boys. Now just go on and drop it off down in the cellar", she greeted me. I tried to protest, but she interrupted with, "Now now, don't keep me waitin', boy. Just drop it off down in the cellar with the rest of the loot. It's in back there". So, trying to disguise the fact that my eyes have turned into cartoon dollar signs, I start playing along as best I can, and I mosey on towards the back and climb down the short ladder to claim my prize. While I'm gazing at a Semi-Auto Shotgun inside a stolen weapons chest, which in a game where most weapons have to be manually cocked or cycled between shots might as well be the BFG, the old woman catches on and realises I don't look like the usual boys who come by to store their hauls, but by then it's too late. I dash out of there with my prize, skipping and giggling like Liquid Ocelot in that goofy MGS4 scene while she hurls her best curses at me, and I'm out of there in two shakes of my horse's tail.

 

(Said horse is a beautiful Arabian that I found perfectly camouflaged in the snow up north and spent ten full minutes calming her down enough to let me near her. I named her Princess and she is an angel.)



#4353 Ocelot

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Posted 06 November 2018 - 06:35 AM

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolute masterclass in environmental storytelling. I've made a point of checking out every little square on the map that denotes a house, hut, cabin or any other kind of building, and I've very rarely been disappointed. There's almost always a little story to find, and maybe a cheeky little bit of loot for your trouble, too. Here are some of my more memorable finds so far:
 
- A farmhouse with two bloody, slaughtered bodies lying on the floor, man and woman. A trail of blood leads outside to a third dead woman who looks like she died trying to climb onto a wagon. Searching her bodies reveals a handwritten letter from, presumably, the farmer, who was having an affair with this woman and decided to break it off, and she obviously came to visit one night and things went bad.
 
- A frozen over pond up in the mountains with a little abandoned beside it and a small grave dug nearby. Searching the shack reveals a newspaper clipping of an article titled something like "Tragic accident for promising young ice skating talent" :(
 
- A little cabin up in the foothills with a huge crater in the floor and about four burned bodies lying around. I thought it was bandits or something, but then I noticed a small hole in the roof, too, and when I went to look at the crater I got a prompt to pick up a small meteorite. When you go outside you get a prompt for Arthur to draw one of his little pictures of the house that the meteorite hit. Not too far from this cabin is a massive crater in the mountainside where the larger chunk of the meteorite obviously hit, with all the trees in the area bent over sideways from the impact.
 
- The best example of "Always look behind the waterfall" I've ever seen: a massive cave system behind a small waterfall at what I think is called Elysium Lake, or something like that. I'm guessing this will be part of a mission later, because I couldn't find anything to interact with in there, but there was a cave painting with a very obvious hidey hole that makes me think it might be part of a treasure hunt that I don't have the map for yet. The other paths of the cave were all blocked by rubble, so I went back out the way I came, and when I rode over the hill behind the waterfall I found an abandoned mining site with what had obviously once been the entrance to this cave/mine boarded over.
 
- A house in the hills near Strawberry with a congratulatory hamper left on the doorstep and a note wishing the young newlyweds all the best. Further on down the road I come across a stranger peering over the edge of a cliff, telling me about a cart that must have gone over and crashed. I go down and check it out, and sure enough it's the two newlyweds, dead as doornails.
 
- The best/dumbest one: I walk into a small hunting cabin and am IMMEDIATELY pounced on by a GIANT, ANGRY BEAR. I struggle against him and manage to stab him in the neck, then get to my feet and stand stock still for a solid ten count until I get my wits about me again. There's a well-dressed corpse in the room, and an ornate desk with a nice typewriter on it, and when I search the drawers I find a couple of poems. I suppose he was an aspiring poet who came out to the wilderness for inspiration... and then a bear burst in through the back door and ate him one day :P
 
The game also brings back one of my favourite sidequest-y type things from RDR1 with the treasure maps, and they're just as good here as they were there. The fact that Rockstar has the resources to build these open worlds without resorting to any kind of repetition of assets or procedural generation means they can pack them with very recognisable landmarks, and then they'll send you on treasure hunts with maps that point to those landmarks. There are no waypoints or anything, you just have to find'em, and they could be anywhere in these miles upon miles of forests. It's not something you can sit down and bang out, but rather you just keep that image from the treasure map in the back of your mind, and one day you'll be out there and all of a sudden you'll see the exact face-shaped rocky outcropping you remember from the map and KABAMZO you'll have the next step of the treasure hunt in hand. It's such a wonderful feeling.
 
Also I'm finally getting used to the controls. Once you get a feel for where everything sits within the hopelessly complicated menus within menus, you can actually blast through'em pretty quickly, and right now I'm feeling pretty overpowered. In my first ten-ish hours with the game I felt like I could only reliably win a gunfight if I had some good cover and everyone had the decency to come at me from one direction, but now that I know that the radial menu can pause time, and ability-enhancing tonics can be drunk almost instantly, and the Deadeye bullet time meter can be refilled as many times as you have tonics to refill it, I'm practically invincible. One of the games random encounters will have you ambushed by bad guys after you enter a covered bridge, but thanks to my insta-tonics and Deadeye I was able to effortlessly drop six dudes with six consecutive perfect headshots from my repeater and ride off without a scratch.


#4354 Ocelot

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Posted 12 November 2018 - 06:04 AM

Red Dead Redemption 2 is turning into a real slog, you guys. My best times with the game were back in that last post when I was just roaming around the world, exploring all there was to explore, drinking in that lovely environmental storytelling. This game has an absolutely gorgeous, fantastically-designed world, where you can feel every last cent of the hundreds of millions of dollars they spent making it. Rockstar's essentially infinite money has let them craft dozens of bespoke encounters that they can throw at you to make the world feel wonderfully alive, and I had a solid 20 hours of pure exploring bliss with it.

 

Now, though, I'm back to the story missions, and, boy oh boy, I'm starting to getting sick of it. It's not that the story is bad, or the writing doesn't hold up, because it isn't, and it does. The character building here is excellent, and the story deals with some uncommonly mature subject matter for this medium we call video games. And that's not "mature" as in "swearing", but "mature" as in "an exploration of the relationships between emotionally distant and morally dubious men at a turning point in the culture of a young country". I think Arthur is probably the best character Rockstar has ever written, and I love the way he's animated and voiced. This game is right there on par with the best of Naughty Dog in terms of subtle but incredibly expressive animations, and Arthur's dry, world-weary smirks and line reads have made me chuckle more than a few times.

 

Buuuuut, every mission in this game goes like this:

 

1) Watch cutscene with mission giver

 

2) Slow walk next to, or ride your horse behind, said mission giver for 5-10 minutes as they deliver further exposition

 

3) Follow the text prompts at the bottom of the screen. You'll either fail the mission and have to restart if you stray too far from the script, or you literally won't be able to stray from the script because the game will disable your buttons

 

4) Most probably, kill a bunch of guys

 

I'm at the point now where I'm just fast-travelling as often as I can, because knowing that what awaits me after ten minutes of riding to a mission start point is another ten minutes of riding is just grating on me. This game is an absolutely beautiful spectacle, an opulent, magnificent sight that must be seen because nobody else out there makes games like this, but in terms of actual mechanical gameplay design it's surprisingly subpar. The attention to detail and majesty of it all dazzles, but the game goes on long enough that your eyes will inevitably adjust to it.

 

On the plus side, at least you can have your fun playing with Arthur's hair. The man's got good beard genes, and he'll hair up day by day over the course of the game. I've experimented with a lot of different looks during my playthrough, but I've eventually settled on my one true canon Arthur Morgan. You might not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like:

 

MGZK7Gl.jpg



#4355 Ocelot

Ocelot

    Pull my Devil Trigger

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 05:07 AM

I'm taking a break from the longest game ever made, RDR2, to play...

 

Hitman 2, a.k.a. the sequel to the 2016 Hitman game. That game was called Hitman, which is the same name as the game from 2000, and now they've made a sequel to it and given it the same name as the 2002 game, in what must now be the most irritating version of the "reboot with the same name as the original" trope. We're back with Agent 47, assassinating another series of rich and powerful jerks to systematically dismantle another shadowy cabal that secretly rules the world, and it's great! I really liked the 2016 game, and this is... basically just more of the same, but that's fine because they're nailing it. They've tweaked the UI a little bit to make certain gameplay states more obvious, and made it easier to follow what they call the Mission Stories, which are the pre-built opportunities that you can follow in order to carry out your hits, which I was really grateful for. I tend to turn off as much HUD and handholding as I can when I play, say, Dishonored, but I'm not quite so good at Hitman-ing so I'll take all the help I can get.

 

Hitman is never going to be my immersive sim of choice, because the timed nature of all the interlinking AI routines and the fact that you have to be out there in the open rather than hiding in the shadows kind of stresses me out, but I do really want to go back and play this whole series one day. There's nothing quite so exquisitely satisfying as planning out a surreptitious assassination and then just executing it perfectly. I always try to play without ever firing a gun, and just ingratiating myself into restricted areas by hunting down the right disguises, and I really love when I can kill a target without having to be in the room at the time. Like in Hitman 2, there was one mission where I found out that the target was going to be getting a shave that day, so I posed as the barber and slit his throat for him before he even suspected anything was amiss, and that was pretty cool. But the one I'm really proud of is when I managed to pose as a doctor to administer another target's daily IV drip, which I'd previously spiked with a lethal drug. I left them to sit there as the IV drip did its thing, and by the time they actually died I'd already sauntered over to the other side of the level. That's the good stuff.

 

I played on PS4 Pro, and the game looks great and runs at a perfectly locked 30FPS (and makes my Pro run unusually quietly, too), buuuut the load times on saving and loading are just too long for a game where I'm going to be savescumming so often. I'm definitely going to get this on PC at some point.

 

Spyro Reignited Trilogy: I don't really like the way these games feel. I feel like Spyro is too close to the camera, and maybe the field of view is too low, so you have to constantly adjust the camera with the right stick to see where you're going, which is awkward when you're also jumping and gliding and 'hovering' (which is a weird term to choose for what is clearly flapping). You can also pull L2 to lock the camera behind you, but it locks so rigidly that the slightest turn to either side sends the world zooming past the screen crazily, which is very unpleasant looking at 30FPS. I mean, I know it's a PSX-era 3D platformer, so I can't expect it to have everything worked out, but... it just doesn't quite do it for me in this year of our Lord 2018.

 

But this PS4 remake looks pretty nice, and it's pretty cheap for three whole games. I think making it 60FPS would have been really helpful, but it doesn't seem like they had much of a budget to work with so maybe it was never in the cards. Oh well.

 

EDIT - More gaemz:

 

Destiny 2: I didn't play the first one of these bad boys, so I am 100% completely lost in this game and I have no idea what anyone is talking about. Bungie's approach to video game lore seems to be looking through the dictionary for all the cool-sounding words they can find, assigning one to each of their most important people, places, factions and machines in the game, and then just going and expecting you to keep up. You know how most writers will have an audience analogue to learn all the terminology and quirks of the fictional universe along with the reader/watcher/player? Not Bungie. The Traveler, The Light, The Guardians, The Ghosts, The Hive, The Speaker; this game is like Noun Soup, and I think I know to what each of those words refers, but beyond that I'm very confused. The Traveler is that hovering moon thing? Is it... like, a guy? Like a sentient hovering moon thing? And I'm a Guardian and The Traveler gave me the power to be immortal, except when sometimes my The Light wifi connection goes down.

 

It sure is a fun game, though. Boy it feels great to shoot guys. This game just screams on my PC at like 90+ FPS, and all those particular aim assists and reticle-stickiness things Bungie does to make you feel like you're a better shot than you actually are just make it feel so good to put that red dot on a face and pull the trigger. Coming straight from Red Dead Redemption 2, which has some of the absolute worst shooting controls in recent memory, it's such a breath of fresh air. I do feel like I'm already finding the limitations of the larger game design, though. Shooting guys is great, but I don't think Bungie knows how to do anything else, so this game is basically just running down a corridor shooting guys, or running down a corridor listening to a voice talking in your ear, and sometimes to switch things up they'll lock you in a room and it'll be the enemies' turn to run down corridors at you.

 

But, hey, you can't beat free. I'm going to play this game until I've had my fill and then uninstall it to get back the 80GB of SSD space it's taking up, and it won't cost me a cent. Activision is obviously giving it out for free so they can get me hooked and then dangle the microtransactions in front of me, but joke's on them because I'm only here for the singleplayer part :P






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